Have you ever wondered what goes into developing a culturally-inclusive curriculum?
The audience that Reading Horizons serves is diverse, and our footprint has grown significantly in the last decade as K–3 teachers and students from all over the country use our product for emerging readers and remediation. Our curriculum has generally met the needs of educators and learners, but a few years ago we learned that we had not spent enough time ensuring that we weren’t unintentionally excluding people or perpetuating stereotypes and biases. If a reader can’t identify with any piece of our material or software, we are doing them a disservice. That’s when we made a company-wide resolution to focus on cultural inclusivity at every step of the writing and publishing process.
Our goal is to make sure that, no matter where a student is from, their age, their ethnicity or religion, they feel like the program was written for them as much as anybody else. Guided by cultural inclusivity, we not only rewrote our existing material, but we set up systems to make us more intentional in how we developed new curriculum. Here are the lessons and steps we took.
Change with the times
We were always aware of diversity in representation, but we were more concerned about having themes that would appeal to kids and about using terms that would tie back to the sequence we use in introducing various skills. There was a lot less concern about potentially hurting someone with a word or an image.
A good example of how quickly attitudes toward cultural inclusivity have shifted—and one that applies to many publishers—is how to represent Christopher Columbus. A few years ago, nearly every educational publishing company referenced Christopher Columbus in their curriculum. Today, in many areas of the country, Columbus’ role in U.S. history is taught in a completely different way, a way that makes even recently published books seem out of date and out of touch.